Edwards proposes new taxes on booze, cigarettes

Proposed new taxes on booze and cigarettes; how does LA stack up to other states?

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Some items a lot of people buy often could cost more if some of Gov. John Bel Edwards' revenue proposals become reality. FOX 8 looks at some of the proposed excise tax hike and what people pay in some other states.

With deficits for the current and coming fiscal year totaling close to $3 billion, the new governor and legislature face quite a quandary.

Inventory at Vieux Carre' Wine and Spirits in the French Quarter would be affected by an increase in the tax. The store's shelves are filled with wines and other alcoholic beverages.

"It's scary, it's a scary thought for us," said Maria Nicholson, whose family owns the business.

Edwards proposes raising the tax on beer, wine and hard liquor. His administration was unable to provide information for this report on how much of an increase the governor proposes.

The family-owned Vieux Carre' Wine and Spirits has been at the Chartres Street location for 30 years. Nicholson and her father, Blaise Tadaro, hate to think what an additional tax would mean to their business on the heels of an increase in the sales tax in the French Quarter and a hike in the parking meter rates.

"We went through the French Quarter tax, and now to think there could be another increase…it's like the obstacles just keep stacking up," said Nicholson.

According to 2015 data from the Tax Foundation, which conducts tax policy research, Louisiana ranks 45th in the nation in terms of state wine excise tax rates per gallon. The tax in Louisiana is 11 cents, neighboring Texas is ranked 43 among the states with its wine excise tax at 20 cents, Alabama is ranked fifth with a tax of $1.70, Georgia $1.51, Florida $2.25 and Kentucky is ranked number one in the nation with a tax of $3.18 per gallon of wine.

As for beer, Louisiana's tax is 32 cents compared to its neighbor, Mississippi, which has a tax of 43 cents. There are states with a lower tax rate than Louisiana. Missouri's is 6 cents.

Raymond Doucette purchased bottled beer at Vieux Carre Wine and Spirits.  He is not eager to pay more in taxes.

"If it's going to help, I don't mind, but will it help? That's the point," he said.

Last year the Louisiana Legislature increased the state's cigarette tax from 36 cents to 86 cents a pack. The governor proposes hiking it to $1.08 per pack, an amount that was proposed before he became governor but not embraced by both houses of the legislature during the 2015 legislative session.

According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2015 the state cigarette tax in nearby Mississippi was 68 cents, and in Texas is $1.41 per pack.

Missouri has the lowest at 17 cents, however, local governments in that state may impose additional taxes up to a certain amount, according to the research group's website. New York has the highest at $4.35 per pack.

Some New Orleans smokers said they would be willing to pay more if they knew the additional funds would be put to good use.

"If it serves a purpose as for as in the tax for education, I'm all for it. I just don't want to to be in some politicians' pocket," said Jarod Brown, a smoker.

Edwards said he does not want to raise taxes, and his deficit-reducing proposals also include reductions in state spending. But his administration has said to avoid more devastating cuts to the state's higher education and healthcare systems, revenues and cuts must be considered.

"The revenue shortfall is of historic proportions. No governor has ever come into office in the history of our state with a deficit as large as we have," Edwards said Monday.

"I understand they need to fix this deficit, and so forth, but they need to come up with some other creative ideas," said Nicholson.

The governor has also proposed a penny increase in the state's 4 cent sales tax. He said Monday that the extra penny would be a "bridge" until a new tax structure could be put in place, and then the extra one-cent would go away.

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